Almost out of time, but just for today

11:15 PM
Wally and Alex are both asleep now. It's raining here on this island of Manhattan, raining on the blue and white Empire State Building, on the skeleton trees. It felt like spring today, and yet it was kind of okay and I couldn't figure out why. Not a creepy, global warming kind of warm day. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, too, high near 50. I'm trying to type quietly. Alex and Wally went to a neighbor's this afternoon so I could work on collecting nauseating facts for my gross-o-pedia. The world of horrifying insects is endless, not surprising since insects make up, hmmm, what is it, I should know this, 2/3 of the number of different species of life on earth? An article from this September in The Times reviewed a book talking about how the study of insects has significant relevance to the study of human psychology and in particular the nature vs. nurture question, which is of course endlessly fascinating to any (relatively) new parent. Elizabeth Royte writes, "...because insects are rarely cared for by their parents and live mostly solitary lives, they make a handy tool for looking at the potential genetic basis for adult behaviors." I'm only now beginning to trace what my adult behaviors are, let alone where they came from.

On Sunday evening Wally and I went to a candlelit church service with a choir. Went to part of it, I should say. We lasted for four songs, though the gummy-bear to song ratio was rather high. Sometimes in the mornings after I drop Wally at school, I duck into St. Michael's church around the corner. It's beautiful in there, dark but full of burning candles, flowers up by the alter, and quiet choir music (a recording). There's a little chapel to the side where I sometimes sit. I gather my thoughts there, try to set myself on the good course for the day, to begin by being grateful. On the steps to the entrance are the words, "The truth above all." Hard to argue with that, still most of disagree on what that might be.

It's almost midnight. I don't have much time now to get this post out, to keep up with the challenge I took from citibank's gauntlet. (Funny, the most valuable advice they gave came after I left them on Bank Transfer Day. Maybe you can only look at something objectively when you're no longer dependent on it. Or maybe their ad campaigns just really got a boost.) Write your story, the citibank sign said. 

I am taking that to mean, for some reason, write here everyday. Writing here everyday keeps me writing more everywhere. It means I can't let myself off the hook. It holds me accountable. Like my cousins and I say playing Taboo at Thanksgiving, it "keeps me honest". (In the game, someone looks over the player's shoulder to make sure you don't say any of the forbidden words. In this case you're looking over my shoulder to make sure I punch in every day). 

Why though? Other than being held accountable to write, which is inherently a good thing. What is the point of writing every day? I don't need to answer that all in one sweep. I can do it little by little. That's what I'm realizing now, finally. I can immerse myself in the process. Commit myself to a daily practice. I can start where I am. "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them."* 

There’s a picture of me and my cousin Will from the early fall of 1999, at my grandmother’s birthday at the beautiful clubhouse we called the Casino in Laurel Beach, where our family had the cottage for so many years. I weaved in and out of the grand hall, alternating between adult conversations and playing with my young cousins. Will, the one who graduated from High School this past June, was just a tiny bit older than Wally is now. That’s how time works, Rach. You sound like you’re explaining the basics of time to someone who just arrived here from another galaxy. Where maybe time doesn’t exist. (The galaxy, I read today, may be losing energy. I can't blame it, really.)

Will, along with his sister Moira and brother Charlie, are the teenagers who play with my sister’s kids and Wally at holidays now, like Dara and I were the teenagers who used to play with them. (Again, you’re describing the basic nature of time. It moves forward. You get older or die trying. There really isn’t any other choice.) Still, like the Twin Towers appearing in the wrong place in my timeline Rorschach test of memory*, when I think of Will, my first thought, for a split second, is of the little boy sitting on the porch of the Casino, swinging his legs and drinking grape juice. 

There are certain people who are just landmarks of time, whose face, when they were born, you recognize immediately. Will is one of them. My older niece, Eliana, is another. They’re both the oldest in their families, and when I think about it, they each represented a major shift in family tradition. Will’s birth when I was 16 heralded the end to my sister and my reign as the kids in our extended family. Eliana’s birth, perhaps, signaled the end of young adult-hood. It is not surprising, then, that those two remain figures like in the Natalie Merchant song, “...frozen in my mind like the child that you never will be, will be again”. Who they are to me is who I am to myself. Their arrivals marked major turning points for me. To see them accurately, I have to first see myself that way. I think I’m beginning to. It feels like being free.
Major transition points. Maybe, like my rain-soaked graduation, my non-existent wedding, refusal to settle down or get a real job, or prepare for having a baby, they went by unacknowledged. It's Freud 101. If you don't say goodbye to certain periods of your life, they never become past.

There is a book I should read--The Season’s of a Man’s Life, Daniel Levinson. I have it here—how even across cultures (species?) we all go through roughly the same phases and transitions throughout our lives. I haven’t been able to plough through it. Yet I am recognizing now the importance of attending to transitions, even in the corny, overblown way our culture tends to perform the act of passing through the threshold. All of us—the ones who are hyperaware and actively engaged in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy—and those who block out every chance for self-reflection with sarcasm, Sierra Nevada and a status update—are living both our lives, one reported in real time, and one distorted, re-imaged, re-imagined, tangential, full of free associative thought and dream imagery. The second one I would trust more than anything else. Yet I do wonder how much what I'm still imagining is obscuring the view. 

The truth above all. That's what I'm seeking. That's what I'm after, in writing every day.

There was yesterday, December 21, when the bricklayers outside were driving me crazy. For moments at a time I forgot to be grateful because they are searing into my brain with those horrid drills, making it hard to concentrate on the work I had to do and the work I wanted to do. Here’s something I want to do: finish rewriting my young adult novel. Reading over the beginning, one passage catches my attention. I used to think of this as the narrator leaving someone else behind, but today it is morphing into something else. Remember I wrote ages ago about how people in your dreams and real life are all the same things—extensions of yourself? Of course that’s obviously true for characters in stories you write. And here, both characters were me. The one moving forward and the one staying behind. Anyway, here's the passage from the novel. Thanks to citibank, my enemy, I have unearthed the manuscript again, 2 years after writing it for Nanowrimo (nothing like a meaningless deadline to motivate me). 
I was moving beyond her, the way you’d feel about a best friend when you get together one day and she just want to play the same old games the same old way, and doesn’t want to hear about any of the new music or books or people that you met at camp and you realized that you were just kind of moving forward, and that she’s not. That you’re waving goodbye from a bus window and she doesn’t really know you’re waving, just thinks that you’re in a funny mood that day. But she’s getting smaller and smaller to where you can hardly even see her, and eventually you’ll get carsick if you don’t turn your head around and focus on the road up ahead.

I have to begin where I am. It feels like I'm finally here. Once I find it, Carl Sagan's "worthy goal" will keep me looking forward, even when--behind the scenes, instead of sleeping--I'm sorting through the past. 

*(I would have supposed, if asked in a half-dream state, that the events of 9/11 would split in fairly equal parts my time in New York, when in truth there were only 2 years before and have been 10 years since
*Bertrand Russell again (this guy is amazing)
*Good advice from the Godfather, "Keep you friends close, but your enemies closer."

Soundtrack: What are they doing in Heaven today? by Bernice, Reagon, Yasmeen, and Michele Lanchester on Wade in The Water: Vol. 3: African American Gospel: The Pioneering Composers


  1. Rachel--wonderful, reflective writing, as always. I love this. Glad you are still writing. I'm also working on this. This Is my day's inspiration! Thanks. :)
    -Holly (email if u have the chance)

  2. Wow - thank you Holly, for writing and letting me know you enjoyed this. And for continuing to write, yourself! I'm so happy that was your day's inspiration -- so cool. I asked Alex if he knew why no one comments anymore and he said the format of the blog doesn't look like it invites comments, and also you have to hit "publish" twice, the first time it doesn't go through even tho it looks like it did. So I thank you esp. for commenting when it doesn't look welcoming (I hope I can change that!!) and for pushing through to get it up there. Will email. Would love to hear what you are working on.


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